The state Department of Transportation and Development is extending the timeline for input on the proposed Interstate 49 Connector through Lafayette, in part to consider changes in the community in the years since plans for the road were last subject to public scrutiny.
DOTD in September launched an 18-month public outreach effort focused on such issues as the location of parks underneath the interstate, landscaping, pedestrian and bike paths, lighting and aesthetic design themes for the road.
But many of the residents and local officials who showed up at early meetings wanted to talk about more fundamental issues, such as the design and location of intersections.
At a public meeting on Saturday, DOTD officials said they will add five months to the public outreach work to explore those and other concerns that might not have played a part in earlier design work.
“We want to look deeper into the changes that have occurred throughout the community,” said Toby Picard, DOTD’s manager for the project.
The completion of I-49 South from Lafayette to New Orleans has been in the planning stages for decades.
The focus of the current round of public meetings is the 5.5-mile, six-lane connector that would roughly follow the path of the Evangeline Thruway through Lafayette.
Funding has not been secured for the project, which is estimated to cost at least $700 million, and there is no timeline for construction.
But DOTD is moving forward with design work, rekindling discussion of the project after a lapse of more than a decade since any serious public talk on the specifics of what the road might look like.
“We know a lot of time has passed since then,” said DOTD spokeswoman Deidra Druilhet.
Recent meetings on the project have attracted groups of varying opinions.
There is a vocal contingent adamantly opposed to building an interstate through the city, countered by enthusiastic supporters who say the new road would improve the flow of local traffic, reduce accidents, offer a better hurricane evacuation route and spur economic development.
But even some supporters question whether the draft design should not be tweaked to ensure the road meshes better with the commercial centers and residential areas along the route.
For a listing of future public meetings, visit lafayetteconnector.com.